Leila Aboulela: How Anita Desai inspired me to write

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AHEAD of Book Week Scotland on 23 November, Leila Aboulela pens the last in a week-long series of reflections, Thank Books, on the power of literature and the people who deserve thanks for guiding them to it

My Thank Books goes to the author Anita Desai whose works inspired me to become a writer.

Leila Aboulela

Leila Aboulela

I have read Anita’s work throughout my career and admire her calm prose, the gentle way that she writes and her fantastic use of irony. She’s also a brilliant short story writer – Games at Twilight is a particularly strong collection.

I also found that I could relate to her on a personal level. I remember reading an interview that said that she used to write while her children were at school, and that she didn’t know any other writers. I also used to write when my children were at school and wrote by myself, often thinking up paragraphs in my head when I was washing up and only writing them down when I found a quiet moment.

I have a clear memory of seeing Anita at the Booker Prize dinner wearing her sari and I thought that it was really nice to see her wearing national dress on an occasion like that. She’s half German so she could have worn European dress, but she chose to wear Indian national dress. That made a big impression on me and I’m sure on a lot of other people.

• Book Week Scotland runs from 23-29 November, with hundreds of free events across the country. You can get involved online too by voting for your favourite quote from books at http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/reading/book-week-scotland/quote or thanking someone from the world of books for what they have brought to your life at http://scottishbooktrust.com/reading/thankbooks.

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